Ahmad Al-Akhras is the Vice Chair of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  He resides in Columbus, Ohio and can be reached at

It was shocking to hear presidential candidate Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) call for the bombing of Muslim holy sites as a deterrent to terrorist attacks on our nation and that is part of his “presidential anti-terror package.”  When reported overseas, such bigoted words can contribute to anti-Americanism, endangering American’s and providing Al-Qaeda and its ilk with a tool to recruit support and raise funds.

Last week Tancredo told an audience, "If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina."  The Congressman, two years ago, engaged in similar rhetoric during a radio interview in Florida. 

Already, Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf, a U.S. ally, has pulled out of a Bush administration supported grand assembly of Pakistani and Afghan tribal leaders, in part due the impact in Pakistan of Tancredo’s comments (along with those of Democratic candidate Sen. Barak Obama). This grand assembly was to be a tool to help build support against the Taliban.

Here at home, personalities more stable than Tancredo's saw the dangerous potential of his words immediately.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters, …”the official position of the United States Government is that those remarks are just outrageous.” Another spokesperson at State characterized Tancredo’s proposal as “absolutely crazy.”

During a Republican presidential debate in Iowa over the weekend, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson said, "I sincerely believe that bombing religious artifacts and religious holy sites would do nothing but unify 1 billion Muslims against us."

After the debate, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said the idea is "appalling." Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) also said, "I wouldn't follow that."

Neil Steinberg of The Chicago Sun-Times was right on the money when he said "Threatening to attack holy cities is what terrorists, not Americans, do."  This type of threat may be expected from Bin Laden and his likes but not from an American law maker.   

America's relationship with Muslims and the Islamic world must be a central piece of any future administration's policy. 

Sending a message to our Muslim allies in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere that their holy city is a priority target will certainly chill their desire to aid us. 

Tancredo’s words will be added to the speeches of the hate mongers as they work to convince influential minds that America hates Islam.

If Rep. Tancredo wants cheap press he should not seek it at the expense of this nation’s good name and fellow citizen’s security.

Congressman Tancredo must retract and apologize for these remarks. If not, fellow Americans should let him face a room of empty chairs whenever he seeks to campaign in their states. 

Neither Islam nor Muslims are the enemy.  The real enemy is ignorance.